Voices from the Far Side of the World

We’re launching the new JDC Voices, a space where you can hear from members of the JDC family — staff, volunteers, clients, donors, and friends from all over the world. There’s no more fitting way to start than with a story we received from JDC Board member Amir Halevy, who recently visited Siberia with the photography group, Jdocu.

June 3, 2019

Oneof the most powerful things we can do as members of the global Jewish communityis share stories, both our own and others’. That’s why we’re launching the new JDCVoices, a space where you can hear from members of the JDC family — staff,volunteers, clients, donors, and friends from all over the world. Discover whatJewish life is like in the small but proud communities of Asia and LatinAmerica; let the next generation of leaders tell you what Judaism means tothem; receive wisdom from Jews who’ve lived through impossible hardship; or getthe latest on-the-ground reports from our disaster relief experts.

There’sno more fitting way to start than with a story we received from JDC Boardmember Amir Halevy. Amir is a member of a photography group called Jdocu,Israeli philanthropists committed to documenting acts of hesed (lovingkindness) and tikkun olam (repairing the world), as well as daily life,in the most far-flung reaches of the Jewish world.

Amirand Jdocu recently returned from a moving and thought-provoking journey toRussia’s far east — “the end of the world,” as Amir described it, “where theweather is harsh, and travel time seems endless.”

A kindergarten class

Thetrip was a tour of the entire spectrum of Jewish life in Siberia — from theyoungest to the oldest. Amir and the rest of the Jdocu group celebrated Shabbatwith the young people of the local Hillel, brought food to those in need, andbaked challah. They sat in on kindergarten classes where children of parentswho’d been denied their Jewish heritage now learn about Jewish holidays andstudy Yiddish as a second language. Joining a singalong with a local choir,Amir was amazed to discover that the songs they were singing were the same oneshe’d sung as a boy scout in Israel. It was a wonderful moment ofconnection between Jews from opposite sides of the world.

But the most powerful experiences of the trip were the visits to the homes of the elderly Jews — many of them Holocaust survivors — JDC serves. Amir had the opportunity to spend time with Sofia, who lives in a small village on the road between Khabarovsk and Birobidzhan. Sofia’s son is separated from his wife, and so today, at age 70, she is raising her three grandchildren. The beauty of Jdocu is that Amir was able to bring the spirit of his time with Sofia back with him. His photos capture their love and optimism, and, in a small but meaningful way, brings the far side of the world just a little bit closer.

Sofia and her three grandchildren

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